HOWELL – At the most recent budget hearing, the council finally introduced the 2018 municipal budget after a fourth round of discussion and a final decision on certain cuts to the budget.
After some discussion on the necessity of specific figures, it was decided that the cuts are as follows:
- $86,400 in Overtime Increases
- $75,000 in Fuel Costs
- $14,000 in Contingencies
- $10,000 in Communication Services Agreements
- $11,000 in Public Works Overtime
- $88,600 in Reserve for Uncollected Taxes
According to Chief Financial Officer for the township Lou Palazzo, the proposed appropriations prior to the March 28 meeting were $51,350,000. After budget cuts, the proposed appropriations are now $51,065,000, with $26,804,765 to be raised by taxation.
The tax rate has also decreased to 38.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2018 from 39.7 cents of $100 per assessed valuation in 2017.
“We’re worried about the size of the budget but we have a responsibility to do the right thing also,” said Councilwoman Pauline Smith during the meeting. “Our job is to do something reasonable and sensible.”
Smith added that she was impatient with the elongated process of dealing with the budget this year.
The budget was originally to be introduced at the March 6 meeting of the council. At this time the council members still had questions about the contents of the budget, and the discussion was moved to a special budget hearing on March 9 for this purpose. At the following March 20 meeting of the council, the governing body discussed their options regarding shared services and employee cuts to help decrease the budget. At this time, the budget was still held for introduction until the March 28 meeting.
The budget was introduced with a three-to-two vote in favor; three yes’s from deputy mayor Robert Nicastro, Councilman Robert Walsh, and Smith. Mayor Theresa Berger and Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell were both not in favor.
“My vote [no] was because I feel that the budget in its total was appropriate, accurate, and in the best interest of the township,” prior to the cuts, said O’Donnell.
Mayor Berger noted that her no vote was due to a lack of discussion around the prospect of shared services to cut costs in the town. This option was raised at the previous meeting of the council, where Nicastro urged the governing body to look into combining services. According to Berger, this official discussion never took place.
“There’s no mystery here, next year it’s going to cost more to live in the state of New Jersey, so I think that we should be looking toward the future,” said O’Donnell. “If we shared something [services] today…it’s not going to save us a penny in this budget.”
Smith echoed O’Donnell’s feelings regarding the future, saying “we have to start on next year’s [budget] today,” where the discussion of shared services can be put into use to hopefully save the township and taxpayers’ money.